Random Thoughts on the Last 6 Months of Game Development

As many of you know, in addition to writing the vast majority of the content, I also do art direction and layout on Void Star's books. And to be honest, the last six months has been a challenge like few I've ever faced.

Nova Praxis: Savage Worlds Edition and Machinations (The GM Companion for the Fate version of NP) were developed, for the most part, in parallel. That wasn't my original intent, but that's how the pieces fell into place.

Both of these projects came with a ton of new experiences and  a few harsh lessons learned. 

Some find it hard to believe, but Strands of FateStrands of Power,  the Fate version of Nova Praxis, and the first draft of Machinations were written and laid out in frickin Microsoft Word. Why would that be hard to believe? Because it's incredibly dumb.

Word is fine for writing. It's actually pretty great for it. But using it for layout is like using a shovel to dig a swimming pool. It'll get the job done if that's all you have, but you're going to expend a lot of blood, sweat and tears before the job is done.

Machinations was mostly written, and about 75% of the way through the layout processes (in Word), when events transpired that forced me to switch gears and focus most of my efforts on NP:SWE.

So... I knew going into NP:SWE that I wanted to learn Adobe InDesign. And as I became more familiar with it, it quickly became apparent that I needed to convert everything I'd done on Machinations over to ID as well. There is a bit of a learning curve, and InDesign can be expensive, but its worth every penny and every second of every tutorial you have to fumble through. When used correctly, InDesign can be a very powerful tool. The trick is learning to use it correctly.

And then at some point, along with learning InDesign, I started working with new artists and working with Savage Mojo (highly recommended!) to get new art in for both books. Art direction doesn't seem that hard on the surface, but it's no picnic, especially if you've never done much of it in the past, and especially if you are also in the middle of writing, editing, and layout using a highly complex new program you're still trying to learn. So maybe it isn't so much hard as stressful, especially when you're trying to do it under less than ideal circumstances.

And by "less than ideal circumstances", I mean while working 50hr weeks at the day job, and also managing the Kickstarter, R&D and production of Tact-Tiles. For a few months I was going to bed at midnight and getting up at 4 AM to try to get stuff done for Void Star before heading off to work. Those were some dark days fueled by little more than Provigil and caffeine.

Anyway, we're finally wrapping up NP:SWE and Machinations. I'd never used DrivethruRPG for print on demand before, so that came with its own set of lessons to be learned. But I finally got the proofs for Nova Praxis: Savage Worlds Edition on order last night.

I can't wait to see how it looks in print!

I expedited the shipping, so hopefully I'll get them in next week. And with any luck, they'll look good on the first try.
As soon as NP:SWE is approved, it'll go up for sale (along with the initiative cards) and Machinations will be submitted for approval.

General Update

Nova Praxis: Savage Worlds Edition

We had an issue with the files I submitted for print. It took a bit, but I got everything corrected and ready to resubmit to DrivethruRPG. Unfortunately, DTRPG hasn't officially rejected the original files in their system yet, so I can't upload new ones. So we're in limbo until I can get someone at DTRPG to flip the switch. As soon as that's done, hopefully it won't be long before they're approved and I can get proofs.

On a related note, I got the proofs in for the cards, and they look great! They will become available when the print versions of the book does.

Machinations

Machinations is sitting in the same boat as NP:SWE. The printed book is the same format, so the layout changes that needed to be made to NP:SWE also had to be made to Machinations. I'm almost done with it, but hit a delay due to sickness in the family.

I hope to have it ready to submit as soon as we get approval on NP:SWE.

Tact-Tiles

We have received all of the tiles from the injection molding company, and half of them have been delivered to our silk-screener to get the grids marked on them. So now we're waiting on them to get started. If all goes well, we should be shipping tiles out by mid-December!

 

Nova Praxis (Fate) Vehicles and NPC Community Project

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If you are a fan of the Fate version of Nova Praxis, you might want to check this out. The Savage Worlds version contained several write-ups for new vehicles and NPC antagonists. I want to make these available for the Fate version.

Hoever, since I haven't had the time to devote to the project, I've decided to turn it over to the community. 

There is now a thread on our messageboard where you can download the vehicles and antagonists from the Savage Worlds version. This allows Fate fans to contribute without needing to buy the SW version. 

International Shipping now Available

International Shipping is now an option though our web store

As previously mentioned, international shipping is in many cases prohibitively expensive (see here). We understand that, and wish there were better solutions available. We do not have an international distributer at this time, meaning that all orders must ship from the United States.

In truth, we are only offering international shipping as an option to those willing to pay the premium.

So why not team with an international distributer? It boils down to simple economics. We have a very slim profit margin on our products (especially Tact-Tiles). So once you factor in the cost of overseas freight, and the distributer's cut, we'd be lucky to make any money at all. And it's very difficult to justify the effort required to set all that up, and maintain it, virtually for free.

This would be a far more viable option if we manufactured our products in China, but we simply aren't willing to do that. In addition to a general dislike of outsourcing labor, previous experience with Chinese (and other foreign) manufacturers has taught me that you get what you pay for.

You can't expect a quality product for cheap.

What's Going On?

Tact-Tiles

I'm happy to report that we have entered production and are still on track to begin shipping in December. I can't promise that we'll get them all out the door by the end of the year, but that's our intent.

Second, we have a premium case, and a price point! Check it out!

We still have some concerns to work out in regards to international shipping, so there will be a slight delay on that front. But I'm hoping to get that worked out, for Tact-Tiles and the case, this weekend. Fair warning though, it's going to be expensive.

Some people have asked whether or not we'll be shipping their tiles in the premium cases. Unfortunately, the answer is no, they'll be shipped separately due to timing on the arrival of the cases, our storage capabilities, and other logistical kinks I won't bore you with.

Nova Praxis: Savage Worlds Edition / Machinations in Print

I spent the weekend prepping Nova Praxis: Savage Worlds Edition for print. Ugh. What a pain. DTRPG/Lightning Source has a lot of specific requirements that I, because I'm stupid, neglected to set up correctly the first time.

Oh well, live and learn. I got the interior done and now just need to finish up the covers. Next up: Machinations.

Strands of Fate and Strands of Power

They are both now available in print from our webstore.

Status Updates

Tact-Tiles News

For cost reasons, we had to seek out a new injection mold company. We found them, and they intend to get started early next week! That means we are still on track for a December delivery.

We also go the first sample Premium Case in!

I'm pretty satisfied with it, but we're going to make some design tweaks. It doesn't need the finger holes in the tiles section. So I'm going to remove those, which will free up more space for the markers/eraser/dice section.

The Premium case will be available here on the website. However, we don't know the exact price yet, as we are still in negotiations with the supplier.

Nova Praxis: SWE News

We're still in the errata collection phase before going into printing. So if you find any errors, you can report them here.

This week I will begin work on the custom Nova Praxis Action Deck and the GM Screen PDF. The week after I'll begin on the Augmented PDF!

Also, if you like NP:SWE, please take a moment to drop us a review.

Machinations News

Like NP:SWE, we're still in the errata collection stage for Machinations. But we will be ordering print samples soon.

Please report errors found in Machinations here.

And as with NP:SWE, if you like Machinations, we'd appreciate it if you left us a review!

Machinations is now available!

Machinations expands upon the Nova Praxis setting, delving deeper into the Coalition and Houses while also introducing several new factions. Machinations also offers new gameplay options, campaign advice, campaign examples, and a ready to run introductory scenario. This GM's companion is littered with plot hooks and inspiration for new and experienced Nova Praxis GMs.

Machinations includes...

... a quick overview of the Nova Praxis setting, hitting the high points in a concise manner to help new GM's more quickly become comfortable with the setting.

... a deeper look at the Coalition government, including the Protectorate.

... an expanded tour of the Houses, covering their political and economic domains, as well as their current ambitions and imminent dangers.

... a number of new factions, and expands upon existing ones. Machinationsintroduces or expands upon the Children of Dionysus, The Fallen, House Turin, Phalanx Formations, Progenisis Afflicted, Rings of Olympus, The Scholae Palatinae, Second Chances. Seraphim, Talons of Freedom and The Unseen Court

... rules for starting characters that are less experienced, or legends in their field.

... a new Savant Program. The Fog of War Program blacks out the mesh, allowing Savants and their crew to operate unnoticed by the Monitors or nosey SIMs.

... rules for Requisitioning gear from parent organizations.

... guidance for playing the elite Scholae Palatina; Coalition operatives outfitting with their own ship, a crew, and a mission to explore the galaxy and deal with the Coalition's biggest threats.

... a new rules framework that allows characters to shine as a member of the team, or operating alone. The new Sequences rules help the GM run scenarios in which the party stays together or splits into two or more groups to tackle complex challenges, without the need for detailed maps or NPC stats.

... four sample campaign arcs. These campaign arcs provide an outline for a series of short campaigns that can be played in order to form one massive campaign, or as stand-alone short campaigns. These arcs are structured to allow plenty of room to interject your own tangents, or provide inspiration for your own stories.

... the introductory scenario, Ghosts in Darkness. This scenario provides a starting point for new campaigns, and introduces the GM and players to the primary elements of the setting while also setting up a chilling villain that can haunt the PCs for years to come.

Nova Praxis: Savage Worlds Edition PDF is Out!

So, for you guys who don't know, the Savage Worlds version contains everything in the Fate version, plus a ton of new stuff. The setting was expanded a bit, with more detail given to the Houses and various locations. It also introduces several new factions, as well as hooks for scenarios, and even new play styles. It also includes four "Campaign Arcs" that provide the skeleton of an entire campaign.

Out intent was to make the setting deeper, more engaging, more mysterious, and even more interesting. We wanted to do a better job of guiding the GM into the setting, so the first chapter is very different than the Fate version. And we wanted to provide more hooks and ideas to spur the GMs imagination, while also providing a bit of guidance.

It also contains a ton of awesome new art!

Fans of the Fate version might be thinking "Well that's great and all, but I like Fate better and I already have that version".

That's a fair statement, and we've got you covered! I'm looking to release Machinations: The Nova Praxis GM's Companion next week, and it will include all of the new content from "Savage Praxis", as well as the intro scenario Ghosts in Darkness, and more!

Savage Worlds fans can also expect to see Ghosts in Darkness converted to Savage Worlds soon!

Going forward, it is our intent to support both game systems, meaning two versions of each new book will be released. We had toyed with the idea of "dual-statting" the books, but due to potential licensing issues, we have decided to keep them separate.

Funded!

Yesterday evening we passed the $90,000 mark, funding the Kickstarter, and insuring that we'd have enough capital to put Tact-Tiles back into production.

I've wanted to bring Tact-Tiles back for a long time, and you guys made it all possible. Thank you all very much.

As I write this, we just passed the $100,000 mark, unlocking the first stretch goal. That means that every set of tiles will come with a cardboard carrying case to transport your tiles in. We've looked at several options, but haven't settled on one yet. I'll post more info as it becomes available.

If we pass the $120K mark, we'll make a premium box available as an Add-On. Unfortunately, that one is proving even more difficult to source. And we're running out of time. So here is what we're going to do: If we pass the $120K mark, we're going to find a case. And we're going to make it available to pre-order through our website. And if you order it through our site, we'll ship it with your tiles.

Thanks again!

Mike

GenCon!

I just wanted to drop a post and tell you that if you need to reach me, I'll be at GenCon until Sunday. That means that I will have limited access to my email and social media. It also means that if you order a book through the site, it won't ship until I get back. 

If you are at the con, and you see me, please don't hesitate to say hi. I'll be the guy wearing the black Void Star Studios shirt with Nova Praxis on the back. I'd love to talk to you, sign a book, or whatever. I may even have a surprise for you. :)

Speaking of books, Studio 2 (section 1317) will be carrying Nova Praxis and Strands of Fate for us. We have a very limited supply of Strands of Fate and Strands of Power though, so grab them quick if you want them. 

We're also going to have several GM's demoing Tact-Tiles as part of their games. So be sure to check them out if you see them!

Hope to see you there!

Mike

Damn you United States Postal Service

Since the Tact-Tiles Kickstarter began, the one thing that has constantly come back to haunt me is the price for international shipping. Simply put, people cannot believe it costs that much to ship a set of tiles outside the United States. Some have even implied that we're intentionally inflating the price and ripping people off.

Well, we're not. The USPS, using a Flat Rate Box, is the cheapest possible way to ship a set of Tact-Tiles. And even then, in some cases, we're going to take a hit to absorb some of the costs.

Don't believe me? This is a screen capture straight from the USPS website...

Now tack on what we're paying for packaging and handling with our fulfillment partner, and we're actually out a few bucks.

We've looked at UPS, FedEx and DHL, only to find they are FAR more expensive. We've also looked at different distribution methods, and potentially using Amazon for fulfillment. No luck there either. Our volumes don't simply don't justify the added expense, and the fact that Tact-Tiles are produced 100% in the US keeps us from being able to cut corners by distributing straight from an overseas factory.

So there you go. Now you know why it costs what it costs.

That said, we very much appreciate everyone who has backed Tact-Tiles, despite the excessive shipping costs.

Please continue to help us spread the word!

A Few Updates

Nova Praxis: Savage Worlds Edition - We're still tweaking things, but layout is underway. I'm about 70 pages in and plan to get with Sean sometime in the next few days to start applying the last few coats of polish.

Tact-Tiles - This has probably been the most infuriating project I've ever tackled, but thing continue to look up. We did some ink testing yesterday, and got the first 100 tiles in the queue for printing tomorrow or Thursday. I'm hoping to shoot the video for the Kickstarter this weekend!

Machinations - Content is mostly complete. Layout is mostly complete. Art is getting closer. Vague I know. Sorry. With everything else going on I've had trouble getting it wrapped up. But I promise it frustrates me more than it does you.